Three things Progressives should think about progress

imageThese boots are made for walking towards justice

“The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”

“I have a dream…”

~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Daniel Pink says there are three truths about mastery. I think they apply to progress as well.

1) Progress is a mindset.

You either believe progress is possible or you don’t. Those who believe that things can and do get better are really the only ones “making progress.”

They believe it about themselves. They believe it about society. They believe it about everything. They ignore those who would like to remind them that, as the Human Race, we are awful, awful people. They ignore those who say, “No, we just have new and better ways of killing/oppressing/marginalizing each other.” They do not believe that goodness is a fixed reality, and that all we can do is figure out how to manage the destruction. They believe that people have the capacity to grow and change and mature.

Progressives have Hope.

2) Progress is hard.

Stony the road,” indeed.

Progress is not an easy task. There are more setbacks than anyone cares to admit. There is more opposition than anyone thinks there will be.

But Progressives don’t get fooled and give up because someone says “No.” They press on because they have Faith that one day they will say “Yes.”

3) Progress is never fully realized.

Progressives take steps with the full knowledge that each step forward is not the final step. Each step is just one more step, and there is always another one after that.

With every victory comes an assessment of “Where do we go from here?” With every person set free comes a survey of “Who needs freedom now?”

Progress is never done, but more progress will have been made when we pass the baton than when it was passed to us.

I’m not a very good friend, am I?

Short term mission trips are good things, in my opinion. Yes, I know the critique that they do little to address the long term, systemic issues that necessitate the need for the short term mission trip in the first place. But you can’t tell me that the work Short-Termers do isn’t beneficial. I just had a friend return from building a Habitat house outside of the US, and as Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing.”

Yet, there is one thing about these trips I wish we could change. It’s when the team returns home to give a report to the congregation and that one person says, “It was such an amazing experience. They actually helped me more than we helped them.”

Please, tell me that’s not the case.

One of the greatest gifts that the late Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz gave to the Church was the reframing of ethics in light of “friendship.” When you think of your relationships with your friends, you will do whatever you need to do within your power to help them out. If your friend says, “I need help with Thus and So,” then you do whatever you can within your power to help with Thus and So. That’s what friends do.

But do you know what friends don’t do? They don’t make it about themselves. They are not thankful that Thus and So existed just so that they could see just how good they have it. They are not grateful for an opportunity for a maturating self-awareness. Good friends sacrifice for their friends. But most of us seem to make “self-sacrifice” just another way for our egos to prop themselves up.

If I use my friends as a way to make myself feel better then I’m not a very good friend, am I?

I know this doesn’t sell well in our consumer driven, North American context. I know that we should be glad when people’s eyes are opened. But, you know what? Just once, I’d love to hear a returning Short-Termer say, “That was terribly inconvenient and not very fun. But I met some good friends, am happy that that we were able to help them, and wish that our help was not even needed.”

Self-sacrifice is not, and cannot be, about us. To do otherwise is to miss the point of the Gospel.